More than 3,500 people visited a special gala event at Locomotion in Shildon last weekend to mark the museum’s 15th birthday.
Visitors were able to ride on a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket and explore the museum with free activities and demonstrations.
Highlights included a ceremony during which a GB Railfreight (GBRf) class 66 diesel engine was named Locomotion 15 in the museum’s honour.
The locomotive was chosen to celebrate the historical importance of freight traffic to the region and its re-naming recognised the museum’s ongoing role in educating and inspiring visitors.
A special surprise guest at the event was HST class 43, power car no.43002 Sir Kenneth Grange. Also known as the Intercity 125, the HST was Britain’s answer to the Japanese Bullet Train and still holds the world diesel speed record of 148 mph.
Appearing at the Gala before going on permanent display at the National Railway Museum in York, the HST power car is one of the UK’s most influential trains having served across the UK for more than 40 years and helping rejuvenate rail travel.
Visitors to the gala were also able to ride on a miniature railway provided by South Durham Model Engineers and access the cabs of many of the museum’s 70 rail vehicles.
To help celebrate the anniversary, school children from the area also designed a birthday card for the museum and created a poster display which showed how people might travel in the future.
Dr Sarah Price, Head of Locomotion, said: “I would like to thank everyone who attended our 15th birthday event and GBRf for the honour of naming ‘Locomotion 15’ after the museum.
“We have ambitious plans to continue to improve and expand Locomotion which I look forward to sharing with our visitors in the coming years.”
Locomotion was first opened by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004, as a partnership between Sedgefield Borough Council and the National Railway Museum, with funding from both partners and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In the first 12 months of operation, the new museum welcomed 210,000 visitors – considerably more than the 60,000 anticipated.
Since opening, the museum has displayed engines from six different countries and welcomed 70 guest locomotives including world famous engine no.60103 Flying Scotsman.